The Samana Peninsula and Las Galeras

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Jutting eastward from the main body of the island of Hispaniola, the Samana peninsula was once described by Christopher Columbus as “The fairest land on the face of the Earth”. The peninsula encloses the bay of Samana between it and the Los Haitises National Park to the south. The calm waters of the bay are home to the finest shrimp in the Dominican Republic, and it is here that the Atlantic Humpback Whales have their young during the winter months.

Attractions include the spectacular beaches and palm groves of Las Terrenas on the peninsula’s north shore and the bustling town of Samana itself which faces south into the bay. High mountains form the backbone of this exotic finger of tropical land, and the branches of lofty mahogany, mara and coco palm trees are home to wild orchids, bromeliads and other “air plants”.

Streams cut the high valleys and cascade in beautiful falls into jade green pools below. Perhaps the most unspoiled community of all the peninsula’s towns is the seaside village of Las Galeras, located near the eastern end of the Samana Peninsula. Protected from the open Atlantic Ocean to the north by the green mountains of Cabo Cabron, Las Galeras exists in breezy tranquility, facing the azure waters of the Caribbean sea. Palm-studded beaches form the “front porch” of Las Galeras, and the magnificent Playa Rincon stretches several kilometers north of the town with its dazzling white sand and groves of coco-palms just behind. Las Galeras is just awakening from centuries of remoteness, and several small, elegant hotels have been built beside the sea there.

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In addition, the new Samana International Airport, just 35 minutes away, brings visitors from Europe and North America. Many Dominicans will tell you that the Samana area is the most beautiful part of this beautiful country, and visitors from all over the world are in agreement. New hotels, restaurants, marinas and residential developments have been created. Good roads connect the peninsula with Santo Domingo and the north shore towns of Cabarete, Sosua and Puerto Plata. Experience the paradise that is Samana…it will lure you, and may, in the end, keep you.

The Rio San Juan Area

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Rio San Juan, a large seaside town of over 15,000 inhabitants, lies about halfway between the Dominican Republic’s western border and its eastern end at Punta Cana. The town and its immediate area are rich in attractions and support several hotels from quite large to very small, however, tourism is not the only source of income for the area’s population. Cattle and dairy farms dot the hillsides south of town, and a substantial fleet of fishing boats operates from the protected coves just west of town. There is even a small but active boat-building presence.

Near the town are some of the most beautiful places in all the Dominican Republic. Playa Grande, a beach once hailed by National Geographic as one of the 10 most beautiful in the world, stretches along several kilometers of shoreline just east of Rio San Juan. Featured there is world-class surfing, wonderful swimming, and a number of beach-side kiosks that will serve fish, caught locally, on a table set beneath the palms and sea grape just a few meters from the surf. In town, the Gri Gri Lagoon offers a small but protected anchorage for a small fleet of boats that offer tours of the mangroves and the handful of pocket beaches that dot the rugged, rocky shoreline. Guests can opt for snorkeling in several locations or may picnic ashore in solitude on one of the tiny, intimate beaches mentioned above. playa grande !! 038 The crown jewel of the Rio San Juan area would have to be the Playa Grande Golf Course. This magnificent 18-hole masterpiece was the last track designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The course opened to rave reviews in 1997 and has been compared to Pebble Beach. 10 of its 18 holes play along 20-meter-high cliffs overlooking the dazzling corals of the near-shore shallows all the way to a hazy horizon where the dark blue of deep water is often broken by the breaching of humpback whales. At present, Rio San Juan and the Playa Grande area are enjoying a surge of development. Hotel and villa construction in the area of Playa grande and the Playa Grande Golf Course are proceeding full speed while just west of town, a large, well- known beachfront hotel complex is undergoing extensive renovation. This is an area rich in amenities, poised to develop quickly and well.